Thursday, January 26, 2012

Why OWS Should Lead the "No Iran War!" Resistance

A national call went out just a week ago for a National Day of Action to resist U.S. war against Iran. Will the Occupy movement be the leading voice saying "No Iran War!" ?

NDAA = Guantanamo for EVERYONE!
World Can't Wait

Some people might argue that the problem of preventing the newest U.S. war is not squarely within the area of concern of Occupy. I would argue that, in fact, there is no one better-positioned to take up this resistance than the biggest group of people in the U.S. who have gotten first-hand experience of U.S. government threats and repression.

It is not a coincidence that legislation that aimed at both Iran and at the Occupy movement was signed into law on New Year's Eve. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) provides sanctions on Iran, and it also has sweeping provisions for indefinite detention of U.S. citizens that amount to "Guantanamo for EVERYONE!" and are clearly aimed at the Occupy movement (among others).

The Occupy movement is not the first group within the U.S. to find itself in the federal government's cross-hairs -- but it's quite clearly the one that's there right now. It takes courage to stand up to that, and that's why every day more and more people are signing on to the call to support OWS and help it resist its suppression.

It also takes courage to talk sense when a large part of the U.S. population has been convinced that another country is full of "bad" people, and is "asking for" a confrontation with the United States. This situation needs mass courage of the kind that few but OWS today possess.

IRAN: surrounded by U.S. military bases

OWS is a movement that is about ideas and debate and analysis. There is no problem as urgently in need of ideas and debate and analysis in American life today, as the threatened war with Iran. Consider some of the issues I raised in early December in my #NoIranWar blog post:

(1) "WMD?" Haven't we see this movie before?
(2) Where does the real threat of nuclear weapons lie?
(3) What is the role of oil in this conflict?
(4) What is the role of the U.S. military enterprise in the Mideast in this conflict?
(5) How do we evaluate the role of Israel in this conflict?
(6) Are we proceeding from a deeply flawed understanding of the Iranian people?
(7) What role does history play in this conflict?

OWS should lead the "No Iran War!" resistance because OWS is prepared to tackle the range of ideas that the current threat of war against Iran poses.

To me, the most important reason that the Occupy movement must take a leadership role in pushing back against the current demonization of Iran is that the idea of accepting people -- even those who look different from oneself -- is so central to the entire Occupy movement.

Over the course of many teach-ins that I have attended at Occupy Chicago, and many conversations with people there, I have come to recognize the power of the idea that we are NOT isolated knots of people who have to be at odds with each other. We have a common humanity, and that's what allows us to have a movement together.

A glimpse of the real Iran . . .
from Persepolis:The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

At Occupy Chicago, we've talked about the way the prison industrial complex lures people into thinking that there is an isolated group of people called "prisoners" who are "different" ... we will never be able to understand each other, and so I should just think and behave as if they don't count. We've talked about how people get recruited into the military, and the rest of the society writes them off ("we will never be able to understand each other, and so I should just think and behave as if they don't count . . . "). We've talked about people on every part of the sexual orientation and gender spectrum -- how many times are people written off on these grounds ("we will never be able to understand each other, and so I should just think and behave as if they don't count . . . ")? Pretty soon, I and other people at these events started to realize that people aren't really that different from each other; or, at least, 99% of them aren't, anyway . . . .

If the Occupy movement has taught me one thing, it is that every time I hear some person or group of people being described as "different," I should stop and think. And think again.

Would it really be possible for U.S. leaders to be talking about war with Iran if people here stopped to think about how different people there aren't?

Related posts

In my post about the Occupy movement, I pointed out that standing against U.S. aggression toward Iran was a position that not many people wanted to take, and that luckily a movement had arisen consisting of people who were willing to go beyond the conventional wisdom and were not afraid to take unpopular positions. For me, it boiled down to the "courage to think different." Today, when people in Gaza are once again being slaughtered by an Israeli state that operates with the full backing and material support of the U.S. government, who has the "courage to think different"?
(See Should OWS lead the overthrow of the U.S. support of Israeli crimes? )

A large number of people are marked for exclusion and deprivation -- and worse -- because they have characteristics that are susceptible to the whole apparatus of power:  they are easily recognizable as  NOT "normal" or "right" or "acceptable" . . . under the gaze of surveillance this condition is recorded and propagated . . . for perpetual recording and processing within the data centers of power . . . accompanied by intermittent acts of physical and cultural injury -- random, senseless -- to reinforce their unshakeable status. 

(See Drone Gaze, Drone Injury: The War on Communities of Color)

Especially important is the fact that the Occupy movement understands the systemic nature of the problems our country is mired in. And they have a determination to go to the root of those systemic problems. That's essential to the antiwar movement. We don't just have a war problem ... we have a war economy problem!

(See #OWS + #ANTIWAR on #AfghanistanTuesday )

As the Obama administration prepares in the days ahead to pivot from its focus on Syria to something truly startling -- talking to Iran! -- it is important that the American public devotes some time and energy to learning and thinking about Iran, the history of the U.S.-Iran relationship, and what the U.S.-Iran relationship means in the larger context of the effort to reduce the risk of war and violence in the world.

(See IRAN: 3 Reality Checks on the Emerging U.S. Narrative)

I was at a national gathering of fellow Lutherans and we were saying that we need to forthrightly ask ourselves: "Who's being left on the margins? Isn't that exactly who we should be working to be in relationship with?" A big part of this is creating a safe space for people who are most often marginalized to be present and be heard.  As I thought about this, I harked back to the high tide of Occupy Chicago, when there were teach-ins every day - veterans explaining "How Veterans Are Part of the 99%"; formerly incarcerated people explaining "How Prisoners Are Part of the 99%"; transgender people explaining "How Transgender People Are Part of the 99%".

(See Get Outside Your Comfort Zone and Have A Conversation Today (Welcome to the Ministry))


  1. The problem with this piece is that it is so obvious - OWS should have been against war from the beginning and it was not. (In fact the original call to Occupy D.C. came from Kevin Zeese's group and it was CENTERED on stopping Obama's wars. Then along came OWS, with MoveOn and other Dem Party front groups at the core, and voila the wars were not part of the agenda.
    Now why do you suppose that is, Mr. Scarry. OWS was meant by groups like MoveOn to take up themes that could be useful to Obomba in 2012 but NOT to take questions of war and Empire where Obama is very vulnerable.
    The OWS movement has many weaknesses, and this is one of them. The other is eschewing any form of organization. It used to be said, "Don't Mourn, Organize." and OWS cries out "Don't Organize, Whine."

    1. Thanks, John. For the record: Occupy Chicago -- within days of coming into being -- was on board with the October 8 protest against the Afghanistan War -- and their participation made that day one of the biggest (if not the biggest) in the country. See: That said, I think there is plenty of opportunity for ALL of us to repent of our past inaction, and do more NOW . . . AND this threat of war against Iran AND the disgraceful NDAA should wipe away any lingering illusions that ANYONE has about Obama!

  2. i'm a bit surprised that you fail to mention the obvious connection between banker and military profiteering from the various wars. wall st. is a direct beneficiary of the current wars. everything from arms sales to laundering cia drug money from the opium in afgahnistan.

    a war with iran would decimate our economy while the elite class would line their pockets with the spoils and profits of war. rather than wasting time trying to justify tranny rights or sympathy for convicted felons, why don't you bozos actually work toward a greater intellectual capacity than your gen y pc brainwashing. i agree that you should protest the iranian war, but more importantly there needs to be a codified agenda with a point. sitting in a park isn't getting it done. 1) end the fed and fractional reserve money system 2) reform PACs and the entire election process which is a sham 3) end all current wars/occupations including ending the current sanctions and aggressive posture against the state of iran. these 3 things would give you validity, credibility and talking points. all of which you sad misguided squatters need. the 3 issues above directly address both gov't policy and the current economic corporate-facist strangle hold that the elite has upon us all. ows is well intended, but is a complete joke as far as what it has accomplished.

    1. I didn't mention the banks and military profiteering because I was hoping you would jump in! Thanks! I think you and I are on the same page -- there's nothing like an outrageous threat of aggression to focus the dissident mind; let's just hope the bright lights of OWS see it the same way!

  3. This is deja vu to the year 1999-2001 era leftie antiGlobalization movement that also had antiwar as just a small part of the movement. Until 9/11 took the steam out of that movement and all the activists went into the peace movement - joined by all sorts of old time and brand new peace activists. Peace activists (mostly old, some new) and leftie/libertarian activists are working against this war but unfortunately it will take an attack on Iran to mobilize people - and then if they are too successful they will run into NDAA, especially if those who are "too disruptive" - or are too successful in blaming the Israel lobby for a war they have pushed even harder and longer and more obviously than they pushed war on Iraq. We are getting to the point where a critical minority realize the old system has failed and it's time for a new experiment, and experiments were what Jefferson et al were all about.

    1. Thanks, Carol! You've got your finger on the problem - as long as it's only the "usual suspects" (leftie/libertarian activists) who protest war, we won't be able to PREVENT war. However, I think we're on the cusp of a breakthrough: see Question: when 45+ cities turn out on Feb 4 to protest U.S. threats against Iran, can any but an ILLEGITIMATE government act as if those protests aren't happening?

  4. Just heard the 11 o'clock news in Boston (Channel 5) where the seemingly mindless male newsreader stated that in Oakland, police clashed with "violent" OWS demonstrators which they "had" to put down with tear gas. Noticed some other biased reporting against OWS from this otherwise fawning "blue state" source which is far from Fox-like. If the police use tear gas, then I guess the demonstrators must have been doing wrong - that's where it will go. Yes of course the Iranians are human beings - why didn't Jon Stewart send a reporter there a few years ago to play with the idea that they were monsters while the reporter ate watermelon with a family and opined comically that their toddler was a threat to America? These are the ones who will be affected by sanctions and killed in a war for control of the Gulf. The map is VERY effective at showing that. Perhaps the map itself should be passed out to everyone - some would WANT to invade for the power, others would understand both the hypocrisy and the danger to everyone's welfare, including our own and those most vulnerable to losing the source of oil.

    1. Thanks for your comment! And thanks especially for your observation about the map -- I think the more we can get the simple facts in front of people, the more they will be able to confront the hypocrisy of this idea that Iran is "threatenting" the U.S.!

  5. Very good article and interesting comments. We have to prepare and protest the imperialist war that is coming against Iran. We must denounce Israeli and US aggression. Joe, there IS a need to remind the Occupy Movement to take center stage in the struggle to stop this coming horror of a war with all the terrible consequences. Thanks.

    1. Thanks for your comments, and for your support!

  6. Dear Joe,

    Thank you for your deep caring--I am an Iranian-American peace, human rights, and Earth activist. Unfortunately, the Occupy Movement may be too naive and inexperienced (selfish?) to understand the depth of what they need to tackle. Please read my "Think Tent" thoughts herein:
    Peace and Justice,
    Moji Agha (contact info included)

  7. Thanks Moji! I read/skimmed your "Think Tent" thoughts -- it takes a lot of work just to get a constitution in place, doesn't it? I think you are right that OWS everywhere will be stronger if people in different cities can compare notes on what they are experiencing, and on the solutions they come up with. Are you planning to participate in the Feb4 #NoIranWar action in Tuscon? I'm looking for a FB page for the Tucson event to add to my list at!

    Thanks again - keep the faith!

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  9. I haven't checked in here for some time as I thought it was getting boring, but the last few posts are good quality so I guess I will add you back to my daily bloglist. You deserve it friend :)
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